Police: No evidence of hate crime in alleged attack at Simon's Rock

A reported assault on the campus of Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington is under investigation, but authorities say there is no reason to believe it was a hate crime.

GREAT BARRINGTON — As questions swirl around an alleged attack on a female student Friday on the campus of Bard College at Simon's Rock, the town's police chief is tamping down the notion that it was hate crime.

"Investigators have not discovered anything that would lead them to conclude that this was a racially motivated incident," Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh told The Eagle on Monday, adding that he still does not believe the public is in any danger.

"We're talking to people, chasing down leads," he said of the joint investigation with the Berkshire State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office. He described it "at this point in time, [as] a full-blown investigation."

Just after 2 p.m. Friday, college security received a call with a report that an 18-year-old student had been assaulted on a wooded trail on the sprawling campus off Alford Road.

The victim was transported to Berkshire Medical Center with minor injuries and released, according to a statement from Walsh.

Details of the incident remain unclear. Police and the DA's office have not released any information about the victim.

The lack of details have set off the rumor mill across the community and on social media.

Sue Lyon, vice provost at Simon's Rock, said that school officials learned last week of racial slurs written on a chalkboard in the Student Union and an anti-Semitic slur carved into a bathroom stall in another building.

And in a letter sent to the school community on Saturday, a school official said the person who reported the attack was a person of color, and alluded to the racially charged vandalism, according to excerpts published by The Berkshire Edge.

"Addressing the harm caused by this assault and the hate speech that preceded it will be an ongoing focus," wrote acting Provost Dimitri Papadimitiou.

Papadimitiou also said that, as a result, classes were canceled this week.

Lyon declined to answer specific questions Monday about the incident. In an email, Lyon said that college staffers are focused on helping the school community "process and engage in a conversation about the events of the past week."

Walsh said that over the weekend, campus security had beefed up patrols, and that police are in contact with school officials.

Also investigating the incident are Simon's Rock Campus Safety, Massachusetts State Police Crime Scene Services Section, and forensic scientists assigned to the State Police Crime Lab.

The DA's office asks that anyone with information about the incident contact Great Barrington police at 413-528-0306.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.

The headline of this story has been modified to clarify that police have found no evidence that the alleged attack is a hate crime.